“If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute,” or so the saying goes. We have weird weather, it’s true, and we spend almost every new conversation with a stranger talking about it. Which is odd, in a sense, as we’ve learned to be fairly unmoved by it, too. We’ll swim in the cold waters, hike in the pouring rain and charge outside when the clouds break a few times every summer, but still we talk about it. An unhealthy but relentless obsession, but it’s how we bond.
Potty mouth is just part of being Irish. There are some words that we reserve for occasions when we’re genuinely upset, but chucking a little bit of borderline-offensive language in, in some cases, almost every single sentence is nothing if not extremely f-ing common. It catches on, eventually, especially when the locals swear so elegantly you’ll probably end up finding it charming.
… And then never speaking to them again. Or at least until you bump into them again six months later. The Irish can be easy come, easy go when it comes to friendship, often happy to pass time in the moment and move on. This habit can be a somewhat confusing process for visitors: it’s not that we don’t like you, it’s just that it was just some fun in the pub, and we have another moment to live in tomorrow. You get used to it, and everyone’s openness in the bars becomes something truly special. Keep heading out, and sooner or later, those friendships really take hold.
Okay, not just breakfast rolls, but stuffing sausage, bacon, eggs, black and white pudding (yes, the former is blood sausage), and occasionally even baked beans or hash browns into a baguette and calling it a meal is a peculiarly Irish love. Check out the convenience store, especially on a morning likely to invoke hangovers, and you’ll uncover one of the country’s great unheralded loves. Disgusting? Arguably. Awesome? Hell yes.
We really don’t like to impose, so much so that quite a few American websites convinced themselves the Irish were completely oblivious to who Beyonce and Jay-Z were when they dropped in a few years ago (utterly untrue, for the record). We just like to leave people be most of the time. In fact, we’re typically not very impressed by fame: almost everyone in Dublin has a Bono story, for example. We’re still not sure we even like our biggest rock band, but many of us know which pub they drink in. We just leave them to it.
If people aren’t making fun of you in Ireland, it’s a sure sign they’ve either just met you and are still sussing you out, or they don’t like you all that much. Outside of a professional environment, absolutely shredding each other (verbally, of course) is practically the national sport. It’s not ideal for the sensitive, but it certainly makes life entertaining.
Professionally, we’ll do things right. But socially, if you invite a dozen locals to a party and the invitation says 8pm, you could easily still have an empty house at 8.30pm. Is it rude? It probably seems that way to outsiders, but it’s so normal in Irish culture that most hosts would be genuinely shocked if anyone arrived as planned. After all, we all know how this one works: you won’t beat it, better to just join the club.
Did we mention we’re obsessed with the weather? But under no circumstances will we adjust our clothing to suit it. Strolling through town in nothing more than a shirt and jeans despite the fact it’s wet enough to get out the shower gel is common enough to be unworthy of comment. Though we’ll grab a pair of shorts at the slightest hint of sunshine.
“You look great?” “What, this?”. “Great work?” “Just doing my job.” “You finished a marathon? That’s amazing” “It’s nothing really.” The Irish are an inherently modest bunch, and – Conor McGregor aside – we struggle with taking praise from anyone. The end result is a nation of people insisting their clothes are all “Penney’s finest” (Penney’s is a cheap, popular local clothing outlet), and that we look like we just got out of bed. But sure, we’re no fans of talking yourself up. we like it that way.
One after the other, we hop off our big blue and yellow double deckers and say thanks to the man whose job it is to transport us through the city. We paid, all he did was pick us up at our stop and tackle the traffic. But even if 20 of us get off at the same time, we’re all going to thank him personally as the poor driver has to sit there and acknowledge us all leaving. It’s just what we do.
Nobody buys just their own beer in Ireland, and as there’s typically no tabs – meaning you’ll be handing over cash as and when you order – the best way to deal with it is that a whole group throw their orders at one person, and they foot the bill until it comes time to head back for more. It quickly becomes normal – just don’t get in the habit of throwing really pricey drinks on someone else’s trip to the bar, and ALWAYS buy your round.
Ireland isn’t quite as religious as most think these days, with Catholic scandals and a fast-modernising urban environment having changed the country dramatically over the last two or three decades. That hasn’t changed figures of speech, though: from an elongated, tongue-in-cheek “jaaaysuuus” on hearing something unusual, to “for the love of God” bolshyulshy complaint, they quickly form part of residents vernacular.
Not what you think: call it ‘St Patty’s Day’ at your peril, and don’t even think about saying “top of the morning” unless you want to be publically shunned (no, we don’t say that). Modern Irish colloquialisms are more subtle: “I’m after going” as a poetic Irish-language-borrowing alternative to the future tense, or “What’s the craic?” as a greeting. It’s colourful, playful and a big part of the way locals identify. Most love it.